Knee pain is a real drag, mainly when it affects your normal enjoyable activities. Rest, ice, and over-the-counter medications can help, but what if you're still in pain?
A diagnostic arthroscopy is often the next step in knee pain treatment after trying various conservative measures. It’s a surgical procedure that allows the surgeon to see inside the joint to find out what’s causing problems in your knee.
A diagnostic knee arthroscopy is a relatively simple procedure that’s minimally invasive and easy to recover from, which is why the Alpha Orthopedics & Sports Medicine team uses it for treatment-resistant knee pain.
Dr. Brian Snow and Dr. Jon Thompson are our two orthopedic surgeons who offer diagnostic knee arthroscopy for patients living with knee pain without relief from other, less-invasive treatments.
Understanding a knee arthroscopy
A diagnostic knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure surgeons use to see the inside of the knee joint to diagnose or fix structural problems. It’s usually not the first-line treatment because it requires anesthesia and downtime.
However, some knee pain is resistant to conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, joint injections, or medications. If you have any of the following conditions, we can use a knee arthroscopy to diagnose the problem:
- Torn anterior (ACL) or posterior (PCL) cruciate ligament
- Meniscus injuries
- Baker’s cyst
- Dislocated patella
- Loose pieces of cartilage
- Swollen synovial tissue
Osteoarthritis is another common knee problem that leads to pain. However, a diagnostic knee arthroscopy isn’t the best surgery for people with this condition.
We perform a knee arthroscopy with a tool called an arthroscope. The arthroscope is a long, thin instrument with a light and camera at the tip, which connects to a screen in the operating room.
During the procedure, our team can see inside the joint with the arthroscope, magnified on the screen to diagnose any issues within the knee.
What happens during the procedure?
During a diagnostic knee arthroscopy, we either give you general anesthesia, where you're asleep during the procedure, or regional anesthesia, which numbs you from the waist down.
When you’re comfortable, we inject a numbing medication into your knee joint to ensure you don’t feel anything during the procedure. We then make a few tiny incisions in the skin around the joint.
We insert the arthroscope into one of the incisions to see inside the knee. The arthroscope attaches to a camera, allowing us to see your joint on a screen in the operating room.
The joint fills with fluid, which expands the tissues to allow us to see better inside the knee. We then look around at the structures in the knee to see what’s causing your symptoms.
If we find something like a loose cartilage or a torn meniscus, we use the other small incisions to insert tiny specialized instruments that allow us to fix or remove tissue in the joint space.
The procedure takes about an hour, depending on what we find inside the knee joint. We close up the incisions with stitches and apply a large dressing over the knee for recovery.
You should be able to go home the same day as the procedure, but you need someone to drive you because of the anesthesia.
Recovery after a diagnostic knee arthroscopy
Because a knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure, it’s relatively easy to recover. We give you post-operative instructions to follow and a list of symptoms that warrant a call to us, especially signs of an infection.
You want to take it easy for the first 24 hours when you get home. Get plenty of rest and stay off your feet as much as possible. We advise you to use ice on and off several times a day to help reduce swelling and pain.
Keep your leg elevated while sitting to help with swelling around the knee. We give you crutches or a walker to help you get around for the first few days after surgery.
You shouldn’t need much pain medicine, but we give you a small amount if necessary. You can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce discomfort in the days after surgery.
Keep the dressing on your knee clean and dry until your follow-up appointment. We may have you change the bandage if blood or fluid soaks through.
You should start physical therapy soon after surgery to improve flexibility, range of motion, and functionality after a knee arthroscopy.
Call one of our offices in Sherman, Prosper, and McKinney, Texas, today to schedule an appointment for a knee arthroscopy or request a consultation on the website.